Now that the IAEA’s latest Iran and Syria reports have leaked out, the fun begins. The conversations last September in Tehran about the enrichment site at Qom must have been really something. Perhaps they went something like this:
PRESIDENT: You think, you think we want to, want to go this route now? And the—let it hang out, so to speak?
DEAN: Well, it’s, it isn’t really that—
HALDEMAN: It’s a limited hang out.
DEAN: It’s a limited hang out.
EHRLICHMAN: It’s a modified limited hang out.
PRESIDENT: Well, it’s only the questions of the thing hanging out publicly or privately.
All of this is by way of saying that it’s time for Krepon to update the shoebox.
Qom: The Official Version
Here’s how Iran has explained the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP, aka the Qom facility) to the IAEA:
7. In a letter to the Director General dated 21 September 2009, Iran informed the Agency that “Based on (its) sovereign right of safeguarding … sensitive nuclear facilities through various means such as utilization of passive defense systems … (Iran) has decided to construct a new pilot fuel enrichment plant (up to 5% enrichment)”. [snip]
12. Iran explained that the Fordow site had been allocated to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) in the second half of 2007, and that that was when the construction of FFEP had started. Iran subsequently confirmed that explanation in a letter dated 28 October 2009. In that letter, Iran stated that:
“As a result of the augmentation of the threats of military attacks against Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran decided to establish contingency centers for various organizations and activities …
“The Natanz Enrichment Plant was among the targets threatened with military attacks. Therefore, the Atomic Energy Organization requested the Passive Defence Organization to allocate one of those aforementioned centers for the purpose of (a) contingency enrichment plant, so that the enrichment activities shall not be suspended in the case of any military attack. In this respect, the Fordow site, being one of those constructed and prepared centers, (was) allocated to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) in the second half of 2007. The construction of the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant then started. The construction is still ongoing. Thus the plant is not yet ready for operation and it is planned to be operational in 2011.”
The claim that work at FFEP started up in late 2007 connects to the controversy over modified Code 3.1. In March 2007, the Iranian side “suspended” its compliance with early notification rules for the construction of new nuclear facilities. There are only two problems: nobody shares the Iranian view of the legality of unilateral “suspension” of its safeguards undertakings, and nobody believes Iranian claims about the start of construction. On the latter point, the IAEA report states:
13. During the meetings, the Agency informed Iran that it had acquired commercially available satellite imagery of the site indicating that there had been construction at the site between 2002 and 2004, and that construction activities were resumed in 2006 and had continued to date. The Agency also referred to the extensive information given to the Agency by a number of Member States detailing the design of the facility, which was consistent with the design as verified by the Agency during the DIV. The Agency also informed Iran that these Member States alleged that design work on the facility had started in 2006.
Iran now looks ready to wage a losing battle over Qom at the upcoming Board of Governors meeting.
A Crack in Syria’s Stonewall
In the meantime, following the IAEA’s detection of chemically processed (“anthropogenic”) uranium traces at Syria’s Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR), Syria has acknowledged the possession of previously undeclared uranium supplies:
7. In a meeting held on 2 November 2009 in Vienna, Syria was provided with further detailed information concerning the results of the analysis of the environmental samples from the MNSR. At that meeting, Syria identified other possible sources of the anthropogenic natural uranium particles, including domestically produced yellowcake and small quantities of imported, but previously undeclared, commercial uranyl nitrate. Syria also provided a document to support its explanation for the presence of the uranyl nitrate at the MNSR.
An inspection is scheduled for tomorrow.
Bonus Watergate Transcript Excerpt!
EHRLICHMAN: John says he’s sorry he sent those burglars in there, and that helps a lot.
PRESIDENT: That’s right.
MITCHELL: You are very welcome, sir. (Laughter)
HALDEMAN: Just glad the others didn’t get caught.
For this and more priceless Nixoniana, go here.